Further Thoughts on Gossip

How fitting to have a youth group bonfire the night before we heard that “the tongue is a fire … itself set on fire by hell!” (James 3). And in the weird and wonderful way that the lectionary throws up readings, this text came up not only the day after the bonfire (which was awesome, thanks for asking, not least thanks to the prayer shield which gave us a dry 90 minutes for the precise window of time we were scheduled to stand in a field watching things burn; I’m not sure what I think about that; so let’s just pray much harder for the rain to head north), but two weeks after someone asked me what I thought about gossip.  Continue reading “Further Thoughts on Gossip”

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Vultures, Victims and Vengeance

DANIELLE STOTT WRITES: “The vulture sitting on the cross represents clergy who abuse their flock. The vulture is in fact sitting on the cross, holding it down on Christ. Meanwhile the sheep, Christ’s people, who he shepherds, walk away from the cross (or the vulture?) in confusion and hurt. So Christ carries his cross alone, in agony and deep sadness; almost being crushed by its weight. The sheep head towards the light, but of course it is false hope because Jesus said “come follow me” as he was on the way to Golgotha, to darkness.”  Continue reading “Vultures, Victims and Vengeance”

Strong in faith, free of doubt? Yeah, right!

Every week in common time, we end communion by singing “Halleluya! We sing your praises”, in which we claim that we are “strong in faith, free of doubt“. “And yet,” someone said to me recently, “I’m not free of doubt!” This came hard on the heels of a conversation I had with someone else, a deeply committed and faithful Christian who attends church most weeks, and who nevertheless has always struggled with any sense of a personal faith.  Continue reading “Strong in faith, free of doubt? Yeah, right!”

One Spirit, One Body, One Church Review

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Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to a church two thousand years and 14,000 kilometres away, yet it speaks loud and clear to us here at Sanctuary today. This coming Saturday, we will hold our annual review, and it will be a heap of fun. The review questions have been woven into party games, and so most of it should feel like play. But behind the play is serious intent, and it is that serious intent which I will focus on now.

Continue reading “One Spirit, One Body, One Church Review”

Healed to Serve

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The disciples have returned from preaching and healing around the villages. In the face of people’s need, they have barely had time to eat, so Jesus invites them to come away to a deserted place and rest awhile. Yet the crowd guesses where they’re going, and meets them there. When Jesus sees the mob, his guts wrench with compassion, and he begins to teach and heal once again …  Continue reading “Healed to Serve”

Into the Storm: A Script

Tonight we re-tell a story from the gospel according to Mark in which Jesus sleeps in a boat, a storm blows in, and the disciples panic. By way of background, Mark uses the image of a boat as a symbol for the gathered community of faith; crossing to the other shore suggests moving between Jewish and Gentile territories.  As you participate in the story, then, you might want to reflect on times when you have seen a faith community attacked: What provoked the attack? And what enabled the community to continue in its course of action (if it did)? Or you might want to reflect on your own relationship with Jesus: Are you a student, content to value his teaching? Or are you a disciple, who seeks to internalise his teaching?  Continue reading “Into the Storm: A Script”

Pentecost: A Primer

Let’s talk about Pentecost. We think of it as a Christian party, but behind it lies a Jewish festival which comes fifty days after the Passover. The Passover festival recalls the exodus from Egypt. It remembers when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, when every Israelite household sacrificed a lamb, marked their doorposts with its blood, packed their bags, and roasted and ate the lamb. That very night, an avenging angel came and wrought havoc on Egypt, and Pharaoh was finally persuaded to let the Israelites go, freed from slavery at last.  Continue reading “Pentecost: A Primer”

Eating Out-of-Bounds: The Culture of God

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Tonight we have a great story about food: and it makes me wonder: Who do you eat with? But first, the story. As a Jewish man, Peter will not eat certain foods; but in a vision God shows him all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds, and tells him to kill and eat. And as prawn-cracker-crunching pork-chop-eating Gentile followers of Jesus, it’s easy for us to roll our eyes and say, Well, duh!! But we can only say “duh!” because we are beneficiaries of Peter’s response to this vision. For while he is still pondering what he has seen, he is invited to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. On the basis of the vision, Peter the Jew accepts. Continue reading “Eating Out-of-Bounds: The Culture of God”

Open Heart, Open Mind: Reading the Bible with Jesus

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Like the wider Christian church, our congregation includes people who hold very different ideas about how to live. Some of us acknowledge the possibility of a just war; others believe that peacemaking is the only way. Some of us proclaim salvation through Christ alone; others, that there are many paths to God. Some of us freely affirm faithful homosexual relationships; others reject the idea that any such relationship could be godly. We are all reading the same Bible, yet our conclusions can clash. So what’s happening here? And what’s the way forward? Continue reading “Open Heart, Open Mind: Reading the Bible with Jesus”

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